Healthful Legumes (Dals) do Wonders for your Body…

There are several varieties of legumes, and they form the mainstay of the diet on the subcontinent of India.  Also called dals, they are considered to be very healthful and nutritive, and are extremely rich in protein and potassium.  In India legumes are available both as fresh vegetables and as dried peas, beans, or lentils.

Always wash legumes four or five times under cold running water prior to cooking.  Some varieties of legumes should be soaked overnight to tenderize and save cooking time, as indicated in the recipes of my cookbooks.

The following legumes are available at Indian grocery stores, and most of them can be found at your local supermarkets.

Black gram or black chick-peas (kala chana) are a smaller variety than the chole and should be soaked in water prior to cooking.  They are widely used in Rajasthan and western India.

Black-eyed peas or cowpeas (lobia) are white kidney shaped beans with a black “eye.”  This variety of legume is popular in North India, South America, and Africa.

Chick-peas or garbanzos (chole or kabuli chana) should be soaked in water overnight to tenderize them and reduce the cooking time.  These legumes are used widely in Middle Eastern and South American cuisine as well.  Eastern hummus, for example, is made from the garbanzo.

Pigeon peas (arhar dal or toovar dal) are small yellow split peas used predominantly in South India.

Pink Lentils (masoor dal) are small and salmon-colored and take less than 20 minutes to cook.

Red kidney beans (rajma) are large kidney-shaped beans.  They should be soaked in water overnight to tenderize them and reduce the cooking time.  This variety of legume is very popular in Punjabi and Rajasthani cuisine.

Red mung beans (mowth dal) are particularly popular in Rajasthan and Gujarat.

Round green or yellow split peas (matar dal) are excellent for soups and lentil curries.  However, they do need to be soaked for an hour prior to cooking.

Split black beans or gram (urid dal) are pale cream in color and cook to a thick consistency.  This variety is very popular in South Indian cuisine.

Split yellow mung beans (moon dal) are split mung beans.  In India this variety is served to invalids and babies.

Whole black beans (ma-ki-dal) are a favorite in the Punjab and the frontier country.  They are usually cooked with abundant ginger and spices and served fresh with chapatis.

Whole mung beans (sabot moong dal) are the beans that produce the very popular bean sprouts used in salads and Oriental dishes.

Yellow split peas, also known as split chick-peas or garbanzos (chana dal) are the most widely used dal.  The gram flour, or besan, is used to make pakoras (hors d’oeuvres) and is versatile as a sauce thickener.

Dal is always prepared in combination with pungent herbs and spices, such as garlic, ginger, onion, black pepper, chilies, mustard seeds, asafoetida, cumin, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, onion seeds, salt, and oil or clarified butter.

The seasoning technique (baghar or tarka) is always the same: In a small pan, heat some oil or ghee and add the required amount of cumin and mustard seeds. When the seeds start popping, add the chopped onion, ginger, garlic, crushed red dried chilies, and a pinch of asafoetida. Stir and cook for a minute, removing the pan from the heat. This blend of seasoning is used to garnish cooked lentils served with rice or chapatis (roti).


Zucchini Lentils (Tori ka Dal)

Serves 6

1 pound pink lentils, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
2 quarts water
½ teaspoon ground turmeric
¼ teaspoon ground dried red chilies
Salt to taste
¼ cup vegetable oil
½  teaspoon cumin seeds
2 medium chopped onions, peeled and chopped fine
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped fine
1 ½ -piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
1 large tomato, chopped
2 pounds zucchini, sliced into ¼-inch pieces
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro leaves

Wash the lentils and boil them in the water with the turmeric, ground chili, and salt over medium heat for 15-20 minutes.  Heat the oil in a medium saucepan.  Add the cumin seeds and fry until golden brown.  Add the onions, garlic, and ginger and fry until browned.  Add the tomato and stir until soft.  Remove and mix with the lentils; cook over medium heat for 5-8 minutes.  Mix in the zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes. Garnish with cilantro leaves and serve hot as a soup or with chapatis or plain rice and accompanying entrees.

Check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016) at .


Make your Body Happy with Healing Curry!

We are what we eat.

There is more to curry than meets the eye in creating harmony and balance to make body, mind, and spirit happy.  Curry evolved out of India’s five-thousand-year-old healing system called Ayurveda (science of life: body, mind, and spirit), where healing with food, herbs, and spices was nature’s gift to people.

Growing up in India, my mother always impressed upon us, “Remember that spices and herbs have medicinal properties and are the heating and cooling specialists of the body.  They aid the digestive process and provide heat to the body and cool it.”


Shahjahan-Style Meatballs with Noodles (Shahjehani Kofta aur Sevaiyan)

Serves 6

2 tablespoons roasted chickpea flour
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
¼ cup hot whole milk
½ cup corn oil
1 large onion, peeled, sliced fine
4 cups water
2 pounds ground lamb
2 tablespoons corn oil
Salt to taste
¼ teaspoon chili powder
1 egg
¼ cup unsalted, blanched almonds
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
¼ cup fresh coconut, grated
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon ground black cumin
¼ teaspoon ground clove
1 medium onion, peeled and chopped fine
¼ cup raisins, chopped fine
1 fresh green Thai chili, chopped fine
½ cup fresh mint leaves, chopped fine
3⁄4-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated
½ cup plain yogurt, divided
2 cups water
¼ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
1 pound packaged Oriental noodles
16 cups water
1 tablespoon corn oil

Soak the saffron threads in hot milk for 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add the sliced onions and sauté for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden brown.

In a food processor, grind the onions and divide into two equal portions.

In a pot, add 4 cups water, lamb, salt, and chili powder.  Cover and cook over medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the lamb is tender and the liquid has evaporated.

In a food processor, grind the lamb, egg, and roasted chickpea flour.  Combine one portion of the ground onion paste and half the yogurt and blend with the lamb.

In a food processor, puree the almonds, poppy seed, coconut, cardamom, cinnamon, black cumin, clove, and saffron milk.  Add two-thirds of this mixture to the lamb and knead well.  Divide the lamb into sixteen equal portions and form into smooth balls.

In a small bowl, mix the chopped onion, raisins, green chili, and mint leaves; divide into sixteen equal parts.

Flatten each meatball and place 1 portion of the raisin stuffing in the center.  Form into a smooth ball.  Place on a platter until all the meatballs are stuffed.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add the ginger, second portion of the fried ground onion mixture, almond mixture, and remaining half of the yogurt.  Stir for 4-5 minutes until brown.

Add 2 cups water, stir, and boil.  Drop in the meatballs and add cilantro leaves.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes until meatballs are soft.

In a large pot, add 16 cups water and 1 tablespoon oil.  Boil over medium heat.  Add noodles and cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes until done.  Drain immediately in a colander.

On a platter, arrange the meatballs on top of the noodles.  Serve hot with salad and cilantro chutney.


Visit my website to check out my cookbooks Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015) and India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016).


Shrimp in Fresh Coconut Milk (Jhinga Masala)

Seafood is very popular on the South, West, and East Coasts of India.  There are endless varieties of fish preparations, and they differ from region to region.  The chili-hot Andhra Pradesh fish and prawn curries, the coconut- and curry-flavored Madras prawn and fish curries, the mustard-flavored fish and prawn curries of Bengal, and, of course, the unforgettable fish and shellfish curries of Kerala and Goa are all spectacular.

Treat your family and friends to this delicious shrimp curry, flavored with turmeric and fresh gingerroot from my first book Feast of India: A Legacy of Recipes and Fables (1991, 2015).

Shrimp in Fresh Coconut Milk (Jhinga Masala)

Serves 6

2 pounds fresh jumbo shrimp
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
¼  teaspoon asafoetida powder
1 large onion, peeled and chopped fine
6 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 1-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and grated fine
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
2 fresh green chilies, cut into thin strips
10 curry leaves
2 cups coconut milk
Salt to taste

Shell and devein the shrimps.  Heat the oil in a large saucepan.  Add the mustard seeds and fry over medium heat.  When they start popping, stir in the asafoetida powder for 30 seconds; then add the onion, garlic, and ginger and cook until the onion is browned.  Stir in the turmeric, chilies, and curry leaves, and fry for a minutes.  Add the coconut milk and salt, stirring to a simmering point, and add the shrimps.  Mix thoroughly and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes, until the shrimps are tender and pink.  Serve hot with plain rice, vegetable sambar, and pappadams.

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Delicious Mughal-Style Chicken Kebab (Mughalai Kastoori Murgh Tikka)

The people of ancient India turned to physicians to make their bodies, minds, and spirits happy. Healing with food, herbs, and spices was nature’s gift to people. Food had three classifications: nourishment to prolong life, taste (rasa) or flavor as judged by the palate,  and aesthetic pleasure and enjoyment to the mind. Food was analyzed on the basis of taste, digestion, and “gastric fire” (agni) or ability to digest and assimilate food.


We are what we eat. My cookbooks (see are masterfully adapted for use in any kitchen and includes a dazzling repertoire of authentic, delicious, and easy-to-prepare healthy recipes of diverse flavors from India’s ancient and distinguished culinary heritage.

You and your family will love this delicious chicken kebab, spiced with cumin and flavored with cardamom from my second book India’s Unsurpassed Cuisine: The Art of Indian Curry Cooking (Editor’s Choice, 2016).

Mughal-Style Chicken Kebab (Mughalai Kastoori Murgh Tikka)

Serves 6

6 boneless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon ginger paste
1 teaspoon garlic paste
Juice of 1 fresh lemon
½ teaspoon ground white peppercorns
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons corn oil
½ cup chickpea flour
¼ cup bread crumbs
3⁄4-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and chopped fine
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped fine
2 egg yolks
3⁄4 teaspoon black cumin seeds
½ teaspoon saffron threads
¼ cup melted butter for basting
½ teaspoon ground cardamom

Remove the skin and fat from the chicken. Cut the chicken breasts into two pieces; wash, drain, and transfer to a pan.

In a small bowl, mix the ginger and garlic pastes, lemon juice, pepper, and salt.

Combine the lemon mixture with the chicken; cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the chickpea flour and stir for 1–2 minutes until golden brown. Reserve 4 teaspoons of this mixture, and set aside in a small bowl for later use.

Add the bread crumbs, chopped ginger, and cilantro leaves, and stir for 1–2 minutes.

Add the marinated chicken and mix for 4–5 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350ºF or prepare the barbecue grill.

In a food processor, puree the egg yolks, black cumin seeds, saffron, and 4 teaspoons chickpea flour.

Oil a deep baking pan. Skewer 6 chicken pieces together on 9–10- inch steel skewers at least 1 inch apart. Coat the skewers with egg batter and place two inches apart on the baking pan. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 8–10 minutes. Remove the foil and baste with melted butter. Turn the skewers over and bake for 8–10 minutes until evenly brown and tender. Baste with melted butter and skewer on toothpicks. Sprinkle with ground cardamom. Serve hot with naan and cilantro chutney.